Understanding Indonesia: Revealing the Mysteries of Asia’s Inscrutable Giant

November 24, 2015
Understanding Indonesia: Revealing the Mysteries of Asia’s Inscrutable Giant

By: Francesca Schembri, Communications Intern

The Harvard Kennedy School Indonesia Program and the Harvard University Asia Center, with support from The Australian National University’s Indonesia Project, hosted their first national conference on Indonesia on November 21st, 2015 at the Harvard Kennedy School. The all-day event, entitled “Understanding Indonesia: Revealing the Mysteries of Asia’s Inscrutable Giant” drew over 150 participants, including policy researchers, academics, Indonesian diplomats, overseas representatives of Indonesian institutions, and members of the Greater Boston Indonesian community.

Indonesia has become a dominant force in Asia’s political and economic development. It is the fourth most populous country in the world, with a population of over 250 million, and is also the largest democratic country with a Muslim-majority population. With a gross domestic product of nearly one trillion USD, it is a member of the G20. In the last four decades, among the G20 countries, only China has an average annual growth higher than Indonesia. Its growing influence, however, has largely escaped the attention of U.S. policy makers, academics, and the public at large. 

The conference’s aim was to better inform American academics, policymakers, business people, and members of the public about Indonesia to enhance relations between the two countries. The long-term goal is to allow a large cross-section of Americans to play a role in, and at the same time, benefit from Indonesia’s continuing growth and development. Speakers included leading specialists on Indonesian economics, politics, culture, and society, as well as two former Indonesian ministers and the Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States, who delivered the keynote address on behalf of the Indonesian Ambassador to the U.S.

Over the course of four sessions, the speakers covered a wide range of topics: (1) economic and political trends, including democratization and decentralization; (2) the business ecosystem comprising trade, investment, the creative economy, and doing business in Indonesia; (3) research and education, such as studying Indonesia from a comparative perspective, as well as the state of primary, secondary and post-secondary education; and (4) human development, including social protection, financial inclusion, and the evolving role of Indonesia’s president.

“The conference provided a rare opportunity to discuss many of the socioeconomic challenges facing Indonesia, as well as opportunities for growth and constructive collaboration between Americans and Indonesians,” said Jay Rosengard, Faculty Chair of the Harvard Kennedy School Indonesian Program. “The speakers’ presentations generated valuable discourse on issues vital to the country’s future development.”

Photo Credit for Indonesia Image: Mad Korebima

   Click here to view the event program.

   Click here to view the slide presentations

   Click here to view the video.